Only half of GPs have signed up for free under-6s care scheme
ONly half of GPs have signed up to provide free care for children under six.
It comes as the HSE confirmed that parents of children under the age of six will be able to register their child from next Monday.
The HSE said that an easy-to-use online registration system will be put in place to facilitate commencement of the new service from July 1.
The HSE continues to receive signed contracts from GPs and will process them and update the list.
Its latest figures show a wide variation in different areas in terms of the number of GPs signing up to the scheme.
A total of 1,232 GPs (51pc) out of a total of 2,413 have signed up so far.
The HSE released a list of the number of contracts issued by local health office areas to GPs, and the number that were signed and returned by Tuesday this week.
l In Dublin north central, 46 contracts were received out of 78 (59pc);
l In Dublin south city, 49 contracts were returned out of 93 (53pc);
l In Dublin south-east, 17 were returned out of 53 (32pc);
l In Dublin south west, 42 have been returned out of 76 (55pc);
l In Dublin west, 30 out of 42 have been returned (71pc);
l In Dun Laoghaire, 24 contracts have been returned out of 74 (32pc).
Elsewhere in the country, Co Donegal saw 93pc of GPs sign up, while just 8pc of GPs in South Tipperary have returned their contracts. More than 400 GPs signed up to the scheme over the past two weeks.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said that the service will be of great benefit to young children and their families.
However, the CEO of the National Association of General Practitioners, Chris Goodey, said out that a lot of GPs are already working at capacity.
There are 400,000 children under six, and with only half of GPs having signed up some parents could face travelling long distances.
"The families won't thank the Government for creating waiting lists of two or three days," he said.
Mr Goodey said many of the GPs who signed up were doing so "under duress" to keep their existing patients.
"They have been treating families for 10 to 15 years.
"They don't want to be saying to patients: 'Oh we can't do it,'" he said.